Rurouni Kenshin is the creation of Nobuhiro Watsuki, with the manga and anime rights belonging to Jump Comics and Sony Entertainment, respectively. FF is non-profit, meant for entertainment only and can be archived anywhere, just let me know where. Please send no flames, I'm sensitive. But for all other comments you may contact me through the review button, alright. All right
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Summary: In the belief that all our lives are intertwined and that our deeds affect our fellow man . . . we take a closer look at Himura Kenshin and the marks left on his mind, by his enemies whose echo, as of late have refused to leave him. Set ten days before the first anniversary of Enishi's Jinchuu. Ken/Kao fic w/the emergence of Battousai
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I fear the echoes more when I'm asleep then when I'm awake. They haunt me more than the stench of death or putrid smell of blood, which lingers still, like plum blossoms on a snowy day.
They wish to stir him, I know and provoke the anger, from which he took his strength. To cease life and spill blood. I try to wash my hands now, but the smell never seems to completely wash. And I fear the day that I will forget, I know him, know how the smell affects him still. He dwells on it, dwells, on the past and the chaos.
I've tried to so hard to forget, "those moments" in which bloodlust ruled supreme. Except at night, when in the dark, the echoes of days long past, haunt me still. They croon and whisper; wishing to rouse that which I keep locked away. I know what they want; it's what he wants. For the echoes to drive me mad and set him free. He wishes to be free, like before when blood and iron, was all we were.
He is skill, grace and strength, barely restraint passion, veiled beneath an amber gaze. I am but a distilled version of that, who too long has had to struggle to keep him caged. But I am all that stands in the way and so I cling to the steel that robbed me once and fight.
His voice, my past and our echo, shall never again, resonate as one. I refuse to let it. The hitokiri and I . . . . . I am no longer Battousai. I know this but the echoes; it's hard to let go, when constantly reminded. If ever, he breaks free, I know that despite my pledge, my guilt and bloody stained hands, he will take what he wants. He will take what's mine and in doing that, drive me to murder one more time.
The echoes, I know, are meant but to lull me, following me even in sleep, they bring with them the soft scent of jasmine that easily enough, steals beneath my guard, placating all fear and suspicion while they themselves, distort my dreams.
The Sounds of Yesterday
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CHAPTER ONE: Wounds, that never heal
Sound became but an echo when he hit the wall, though already too alarmed by the other's path. He ignored the pain and dizzying affect, the blow had caused him. Quickly rising from the shattered piles of wood and debris, he chased after the other man.
Speeding to catch up, he raced past everything and into a cloud of smoke that blocked the entrance of the main hall. And though too thick for him to see through, it was all that kept him from the other, and because he knew this, ran faster through the cloud. Slowing as it thinned, he was caught of guard by the scent that filled his lungs, and halted amidst the haze. Watching as a silhouette, formed into a white-haired man.
"Enishi, what have you done?"
White hair fell over, dark eyes. "Follow the scent and see, the answer you're looking for," and he pointed towards the hall. "Is right there."
His words' so viciously presented, barely registered, as Kenshin sprinted past him. His mind, a terrible array of emotions, of fear and guilt, was able to think but one thought. Kaoru-dono
"Look well with those eyes, Battousai."
A new wave of adrenaline, surged through him and he closed the distance within a few steps, only to come to a sudden halt. Before sorrow and pain, overwhelmed his senses, breaking the fragile barrier that had once kept him whole. His strength abandoned him, and he collapsed on his knees, unable to deny what he could clearly see. Tears formed in his eyes, feeling worse then if he'd been broken in half.
What was the Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu? He thought. For all skill his skill and for all his strength, what was Himura Kenshin, if once again, he could not save, the one he loved. Kaoru . . . . .
His anguished scream, shattered the silence around him. Reality bearing little semblance to truth or dream, he was enveloped by too much pain, unable to bear anymore anguish or any further hurt, his mind retreated, falling prey to the darkness that consumed his heart.
It hurt but in the blackened void, the pain dulled and so when it requested more, he gladly gave it up, allowing his memory to drift, bit by bit.
He blinked, unable to see or understand. Aware of nothing but the reseeding demons, drowning in the blackness that encompassed his broken heart.
"Please, you're scarring me."
The soft touch of female hands, startled him. So much he fell back against the hardwood floors, bewildered—to find her body gone.
His head snapped forward, realizing too late, that it'd been a dream and that his inattentiveness, had caused her to worry.
How did he explain, without revealing what he felt? Telling her, even a little, would explain enough, that she'd understand the reasons for his distance and he didn't want that. What he wanted, was time. To sort his feeling and thoughts, he needed time to adjust again. It's why he'd set a barrier between them, ever since their return from Enishi's island. And though it'd been some time, he was not yet ready to remove it. He couldn't, the blow he'd take when he believed her dead was too great. Even now, almost a whole year later, he was still trying to recover. And so how could he, it was too soon and he could not. "Gomen nasai," he apologized, bowing low before her form.
Kaoru shook her head, reaching gently towards his tears stained face. "Won't you tell me, Kenshin?"
He jerked away from her touch. Shaking his head furiously as he stood. "It's nothing."
He smiled at the warning in her voice and half turned, his rurouni mask covering all that had been revealed moments before. "Sessha is fine, Kaoru-dono." Turning slightly away. "It's still quite early though, what are you doing up?"
Kaoru realized he was purposely moving the conversation away from himself and though she detested the idea of letting him suffer, he did seem fine. Though she didn't for one second believe he was, she did hope that by leaving it alone now, perhaps later, he would tell her. Locking gazes with him once more, she hoped that at least would be the case.
Sighing, she turned back towards the open door, she'd come through. Looking distantly at the sky, she said. "Someone set Maeda's house on fire."
"Yeah, the guy who nearly knocked me over last week," she turned towards him. "Down by the market, remember?"
Kenshin nodded, he most definitely remembered the man. Kaoru's wrist had been sprained in the fall.
"Were you outside?"
He shook his head no, watching as she hesitated. "There's dirt on the bottom of your hakama." And sure enough, as he looked down, surprised by the specks of mud that clung to the hem. He frowned, recalling the events of the previous day. "Must be from last night," he concluded. "After sessha, locked up."
She sighed in exasperation. "Honestly, Kenshin, you need to take better care of yourself." Falling asleep with his clothes on. "Come on," she pulled on his sleeve. Coaxing him back into the house. She knew it wasn't the first time he'd done it, but every time he did, she wished she'd known. He worked much too hard around the dojo. "Let see if we can get a few more winks of sleep before those freeloader get up and start demanding food, ne."
Nodding, smiling, he followed her inside, forgetting for a moment that she was much too close and that distance, for now at least, was still quite necessary. Essential even if he wished to keep his sanity.
The warm autumn sun reflected off the water in the basin, illuminating his face and eyes with all the shadings of the rainbow until he stood, wringing out a gi. Carefully, this time, as he moved over to the cloth-line and hung it up.
Wiping his brow, he unconsciously raised his eyes to the sky. But on seeing nothing but paleness, turned his gaze back towards the yard, reminded of that day, when it all began . . . . .
The bridge . . . . . the fear . . . . . the declaration.
Ten days from now, that's what he'd said, exactly one year ago to the today. Ten. Days. From. Now, the thought haunted him still. And all because he couldn't let go. As much as he'd tried, he'd been unable to—
Once they'd returned from the island. He'd begun having nightmares; things that made him suffer and cry worse then when he'd only just dreamt of Tomoe. That pain, though still very much a part of him, didn't threaten to drown him in sorrow. It didn't make him feel as though his heart had burned to ash or that his hands had suddenly become as cold as blocks of ice.
The grief he'd suffered over loosing Kaoru, was still too fresh and so the most hurtful. It was as though, what he'd felt then had been locked away and only again suffered its torment, when he returned to the place she'd died.
Only, she wasn't dead and by all means, he should understand that since that was the case, there should have been no need for grief.
Though there in lay the problem. Because at the time, he'd simply stopped living, bottling up all that he'd felt. He couldn't even remember how he'd come to. All he could really remember was the joy of finding her. That joy had been so great, that for a time, blotted out everything else. Allowing him to breathe and live for that moment in time, as things had been.
But then they'd come home and at the sight of the dojo, so had his pain. Enishi's Jinchuu had been perfect. He'd succeeded in scarring him, as much as Battousai had done to a little boy, hiding out in the snow, more than ten years ago.
He'd ripped him open with his hatred and now, while the other lived in some delusional state, he was forced to endure the pain of loosing Kaoru. Every night without end, in someway or another, he watched as one of his enemies killed her from afar. Always too late, he never seemed able to react in time and always, she died because of him.
Always because of him, it was this thought that made him want to leave, only he knew that was impossible now. Too many people knew he lived here and that he'd made friends with some of those in town. So if ever he left, those few would be the first ceased by his enemies. And though this thought troubled him, what worried him most was leaving her defenseless.
She would argue, of course, that she didn't need anyone to protect her but the truth was, she did. Her budo and pacifistic ideals of swords and honor, where to him, priceless. The virtuous words of one so precious, he dared not correct her. Though he knew she was wrong and that her skills, no matter how well practiced, would never be enough, to fend off an enemy—at least not one of his, which is what troubled him. And inevitably, what'd made him decide to stay . . . . . indefinitely.
His musings crumbled like ash as he turned towards the sound of her voice, watching as she smiled and said. "Lunch is ready, come eat." And beckoned him inside, to where she stood, waiting just beneath the threshold on her porch.
He nodded and quickly followed; though tripping on the last step. She giggled and helped him up. Smiling broadly as she took his hand, "Honestly." She half sang. Blushing, beneath the weight of his gaze, "honestly," she repeated. Affection clear in her tone, she smiled at him once more before turning and leading him inside.
In the evening, with the warmth of the dying sun filtering over the yard—Kenshin, for a moment thought, it all seemed swathed a shade of homely spun gold. As if it'd all been dipped and propped, placed within his path for him to watch—never to touch. As he reminded, closing his eyes, as the warmth touched his face. He sighed, and pushed back all other emotions, thinking only of how warm it was as it touched his face, moved his bangs . . . .
His eyes opened and locked with those, a shade of blue, he would remember till the day he died.
"Are you all right?"
He nodded, and moved slightly back, so that her hand hovered over his face a second longer before it dropped back to her side. Worry, still scribed in her dark eyes.
"Sessha—nothing's wrong, Kaoru-dono."
But that was a lie, and both of them knew it. It angered her how easily he could do it too. Sitting there, less than a foot away, breathing in his scent—faces so close, all she had to do was lean forward, just a bit and then all she'd ever wanted, everything she'd ever imaged . . . . . but no, his eyes were clear, his face, still unreadable.
"But—" if there was something wrong, she wanted to say. You'd tell me, wouldn't you? "I worry." She instantly regretted saying that as haunted looked flashed across his eyes, darkening their hue. "Gomen," she apologized. Stepping back before she could hurt, him or her any further. "But if you need to talk," she braved, forcing a tiny smile that didn't quite reach her eyes. "I'll always listen."
He nodded in understanding and let his gaze drift down to the floor as she moved away. He knew he shouldn't have done that. Of course it would only worry her more but right now, he just couldn't open up to her. No matter how inviting or right the moment might have just been.
"Why do you do that?"
Kenshin sighed. "Sano, it's none of your business."
"No?" He asked, taking a seat on the porch. "You mopping around and Jou-chan on the verge of tears isn't my business." For a long moment, they just sat there. Sano, casually ignoring the sharp look the rurouni sent him. It was true enough, after all.
"Things are complicated." Kenshin eventually said.
"Yeah," Sano said. Turning his gaze to meet those of his long-time friend. "Tell me then," and he gestured towards Kenshin. "Why do you do this?"
The rurouni frowned, bemused. "Sano?"
"I've always wondered." Sano, said, voicing inner wonderings. "Is this really who you are?"
"Seems innocent enough." Sano finished. "But, you weren't always like this. There's a reason men feared you—fear you still."
What was it, Sano wondered? Tomoe's death—Is that what'd set all of this in motion. "How did you become like this? The different speech patterns . . . "
"Sano," and there was a certain amount of warning behind his tone that told Sano, he better leave it alone. He himself didn't understand when or where the change had taken place. Either way, it's not something he wanted to think about. The only thing that mattered was that he was no longer Battousai.
"These different masks, the menacing tone. It's almost as if you were two different people. But you're not, are you?" The ex-gangster watched as the rurouni's face completely closed off, eyes becoming cold, "How do you—" He didn't get to finish. Kenshin, was suddenly too close, looming like some threatening shadow, as he invaded his personal space. Making it hard for his heart not to quicken, as the stirrings of fear and dread coiled around his gut.
"Sumimasen," Kenshin said, backing up so that there were several feet of space between them. "It's just;" the rurouni shook his head, frustrated. "Sessha is not the same as the hitokiri."
Only the silence that dropped between them seemed to say something different. Baiting him in a way, as it whispered. Are you sure?
Are you really, really sure?
And the truth of it was, no, he wasn't. He didn't like to think about it. So, he'd learned to ignore it. Reflecting on such things, only after some fight. When the anger was still fresh and coursing through his veins. It's not how it should have been, but that's how it'd become, overtime.
His need to blend and be normal, had made him adopt this face, this guise, which ultimately came to mask over the real person beneath. Which wasn't to say, the hitokiri was the person, beneath. As he figured, or had come accept anyways. Was that for a long as he lived, the real him, would be stuck somewhere in the middle. While the practical side of his mind, restrained, the impulsive part of his nature, clamping down on the angry-violent outbursts he could be capable of. Case in point, Saitou. True, the man rubbed him the wrong way. But it was more than that. His dislike for the Shinsen-gumi, the memory of them, all of them—made his anger become something almost tangible. And ultimately, dangerous to both him and others
That anger, that need to protect—to destroy, it overwhelmed him still. Leaving him no choice, but than to hide it deeper. As he clung to the mask and shied away from anything that might make him feel too much. And so, he'd learned to survive, to live . . . . . until Enishi, had snatched it all away. And for that, he would hate him, always.
If not for Kaoru, the confusion or even the turmoil of his own feelings, he might have killed Enishi. Given the chance, he still might and never feel regret . . .
He realized; he'd been quite for too long. And with so many days without sleep, he suddenly shook his head. This wasn't like him, to be thinking such thoughts. "Sumimasen," he apologized, relaxing his stance. As the rurouni mask slid back into place—"Sumimasen."
Sano nodded. But didn't respond. Thinking, only that Kaoru had been right, there was something definitely wrong with him—though what that could be, was still just anybodies guess.
"Will you stay for dinner?"
"Sure," he drawled. "Now that Kaoru's cooking is edible, I don't mind keeping you company."
Glancing back, afraid, she might have heard him. Kenshin peeked inside. "You shouldn't say that, Sano. Kaoru-dono has much improved and it only matters that she tries, that it does."
Of course, Sano's smile stretched wider. "Sure Kenshin." Speaking in that patronizing tone, the rurouni had so come to dislike. "Sure."
"What did he say?"
Sano rubbed his eyes, with the heel of his palm, tired and a bit irritated. He sighed and leaned back against the dojo wall. "It was more, how he acted Jou-chan. And your 'idea' on how he and Battousai are the same, didn't go over too well, neither."
Kaoru frowned. "You must have not explained it right." She retorted. "Doesn't matter now, though. What happened? You were out there along time."
"I came over just like you asked, saw you guys on the porch and held off on coming in until I saw you leave." Sano paused. "Kenshin seemed a little . . . dazed; it was almost like it took him a moment to realize I was there. He doesn't seem to be as quick, sometimes, have you noticed?"
"Yeah, I suppose you have." He smiled as she gave a little huff. "Anyways," he sighed, frustrated again. "I asked why he was," and he made an all-encompassing gesture. "You know, the way he is. And at first he seemed confused but then, when he understood. He got mad and I mean real fast, one second I'm talking and the next thing I know he's looming over me. Hand on hilt and eyes blazing, for a second." He didn't want to admit he'd been afraid of Kenshin killing him on the spot. But . . . . . "something about him just doesn't seem right."
She nodded in understanding. Knowing that with Sano, because he felt comfortable in their friendship, he could become angry. Not so with her, mainly because he'd always made sure to keep her at arms-length. And so with this edging between them now, he'd distant himself even more.
"I don't understand Sano; he wasn't like this when we first got back." She didn't elaborate from where; he knew what she meant. Enishi's island. "It's only in the last few weeks, that he's begun acting this way. It worries me."
There, he thought, the core of this conversation. The reason, she'd sought him out. "What do you want me to do Jou-chan? He's not willing to talk just yet."
"I know," she whispered. Unable to hold back the tears, any longer, "I just don't know what to do."
Sympathizing, he agreed. There was nothing they could do, at least for the time being. He wrapped his arms around her, smoothing back her hair as she cried into his shoulder. And for a long time, that's all the sound there was. Her muffled cries against his chest, as he whispered words against the silken strands he continuously smoothed back, trying and failing to bring comfort to the rising despair squeezing at her chest.
Why is it . . . . . with any other woman, I'd have kissed her and quieted her down. But why is it . . . . . not with Kaoru.
The thought, however, fleeting made him wonder, why? Holding her this close, he found comfort and strength, such peace in the unyielding emotions that tensed her small little frame. He couldn't understand why Kenshin was so hesitant. If it was him, she looked at like that—but then, maybe that's what made all the difference. Kenshin was a man of honor. He'd proven so, time after time. Still, he had to wonder. If that was the case, why didn't he just marry her?
ִ ִ ִ Did he think he would taint her?
He pulled back, automatically dropping his hands to the side. "You, okay now?"
"Yeah," she nodded. Standing a bit unsteadily. "Sorry, about keeping you up and all."
"Better you, then that little freak's snoring." He countered.
"Either way," she said, smiling despite herself. "Thank you, Sano. It means a lot."
"I know Jou-chan. I know."
His voice, she thought, sounded funny, and she looked him over to see if perhaps, it was because he'd gotten mad. She had after all accosted him right after supper, just as he'd been about to turn in. But, no, looking at his weary face, she realized he was probably just tired, nothing more.
Turning, slightly closer to the door now, "Goodnight then," she said.
"Goodnight already!" Burying his face beneath a blanket. She heard him growl and grunt, shooting a few choice words her way, which only made her smile and shake her head before she quietly, slid the shoji close. Glad, that despite the loss of both parents, she'd still managed to find a bit of family within her close circle of friends.
Her adoptive siblings.
Kenshin had smiled when she'd mention, the silly thought. As if he were glad to hear it. But why that'd be so, she'd still yet to figure. He was after all, and she was sure of this, aware that she had no such brotherly feelings for him. Kami only knew, other than saying it directly to his face or writing it on her door, she'd just about shown him in every other way, short of crawling in his bed. And that last, part, was only because Megumi had suggested.
She really made her wonder, though. Sometimes, when she felt Kenshin slipping away, if such tactics, could actually hold a man. Would such promise, really make a difference?
She'd never thought so, if ever she'd felt the need for Kenshin, to hold his hand or wonder what it would be like, if he would just hold her, it was because of the love she harbored for the dense man. And not because, of any other reasons. Much to Megumi's surprise. She just wanted to know; what it would be like to be loved by Kenshin.
Honestly, she thought, if she could just work up the nerve to say it. Surely, he'd come around then, wouldn't he?
She turned startled eyes, in his direction.
"Are you all right?"
It was very disconcerting, she realized, to grasp why he would think she wasn't. Standing there like an idiot in front of her door. Kami only knew, for how long.
"Kaoru-dono—" he stopped short of touching her. Eyes, narrowing, Kaoru thought, it almost looked like he was smelling the air around them, around her.
He made no further move towards her. Stilling her in place, by whatever feelings he seemed averse to confess, as he regarded her. Mutely watching her discomfort, increase, as the intensity of his gaze settled on her face. Tracing, over recent dried trails that flowed, seamlessly beneath the dark of her lashes, over her cheeks and down the slope of her throat.
"You've been crying?"
The observation, caught so easily in the dim of night and in the darkest of hallways, was not what surprised her. Rather, it was his tone. The way his question seemed to accuse her for not finding him to take comfort in, that really threw her off. The implications of such a statement—if he meant, what she thought he meant . . . than, that would mean, could only mean, he felt something for her too. Right?
Hope warred over her features. Hinting to something deeper, his instincts quickly picked up on. What it was—he closed himself off to the idea. Ignoring what it might be as she confirmed, in her innocence, as to what it was not. Most importantly, she had not gone behind his back. Sano had not touched her.
The relief that brought, he knew was way more than it should be. But the revelation, though just acknowledged, confirmed what he'd already suspected. The depths of his feelings—he already loved her more than Tomoe. And if that, wasn't enough to make him feeling guilty, then the fact that he couldn't help it, did.
Kaoru-dono, he thought, frustrated by the inner battle that bastard had caused. Worse now, than it'd ever been before. He closed his eyes, fighting against the tide, his emotions seemed to give away for; guilt, peace, warring against the hate, his love seemed so set upon breaking. And still, he didn't want it. He wasn't strong enough to endure anything but guilt.
But damn, if that didn't make him a liar. Opening his eyes. "You really ought to go to bed," he said. Sliding the shoji for her to step in through. "And tomorrow," gently as he could, grasp her arm. "You may tell sessha, anything you want." He held, before giving her a rurouni smile.
Kaoru, while still confused, nodded when he smiled. "All right," she nodded. "Goodnight."
"Goodnight, Kaoru-dono," genuinely this time, because it mattered, he made her heart flutter, when he smiled and closed the door.
The sudden shifts in his persona were briefly forgotten. As she almost beamed back. Thrilled, his face had been the last face she'd seen tonight. She began to get ready for bed, wondering, and not for the first time, what it was about him that called to her so much.
Of course, he was beautiful. She'd have to be blind not to see that, but aside from that. She wondered, if back then, her statement about his budo been what'd interested her, been all that true. So much had happened since, she thought. Laying on her futon, covers tightly clutched beneath her chin. And still, as far as she could tell, she had always felt the same.
So maybe, her mind supplied, beyond an infinite amount of ifs' and wonders. Was it not possible, that it was love at first sight?
The thought struck her dumb, and she stared at the ceiling for several long minutes before, slowly the disbelieving look melted from her eyes and a smile blossomed on her lips. Maybe, she thought. Turning on her side, maybe it worked both ways.
΅΅΅΅΅΅΅΅΅΅΅΅΅΅΅΅΅΅΅΅΅΅΅΅΅΅΅΅΅΅From the shadows, with little to no struggle, a dark figure overpowered a man, sending him deep into the middle of the lake. Where he struggled, gasping and breathing so hard, water drowned out his cries, shearing his strength like razor sharp knifes. As the figure watched. Eyes, readily intent, on the slowly disappearing form. He watched. Distractedly, as the white haired man disappeared beneath the slowly stilling waters. Watching, until nothing more remained—nothing to show of the struggle and nothing to implicate him in or any of the others' deaths.
Slowly, smiling, he turned back around, securing a hand to the hilt of his blade as he stole across the woods, stealthier than any shadow, as he cut across the road and back, to the Kamiya Dojo.
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So, here I am once again with a whole new theme and a whole lot of new ideas. Though structure, I'm afraid does not look the same here as it does on the site, mainly because ' FF ' has made this place so"user-friendly"I can't fix anything. Either way, I hope you enjoyed the beginning.
Small Notes, will not be posted for this chapter and that, as strange as it might seem to my followers, is because I want you to make certain conclusions and assumptions before I go into the dissecting and analysis of the next. If you feel a little lost, please, just wait to read the next chapter. I promise it will make more sense then. Still, if there's something, you just have to know, email as always, and I'll get back to you soon.
Thanks, for reading. And please, don't forget to review.